Monte Yazzie's Best of 2018
Film is a vessel of analysis into the world we are living in. It’s a bridge that will forever connect the opinions and emotions of the people in 2018 with those who view these artistic capsules in the future. Film in 2018 took risks, made statements, and portrayed the world from vastly different perspectives.
2018 displayed the frustrations with the political structure, the analysis of the past and the ramifications it has on the present times, the loneliness felt by people because of the divisions that exist with the world, with family, and with self, and as per usual, a bunch of remakes, sequels, and movie franchises clamoring for a piece of the box office.
For every personal story about growing up and growing old, every melancholy romantic film positioned in the past, every personal story about race and inequality, every documentary about fascinating figures, and every genre tale that displayed horrors brought about by humanity…it all serves as a vessel of perspective for the artist. Here are the films that moved me, enlightened me, and captured my spirit in 2018.
For filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón, “Roma” is utilized to tell a tale of discovery, exploration, and memory. Within the black and white photographed film is a family dynamic concerning three generations of women and how they handle the problems blocking their paths. The way Mr. Cuarón develops the characters here creates a strong emotional connection, one that arrives somewhat unexpectedly but completely encompasses the journey within the film but also for the director. “Roma” is the most beautifully composed film to be made this year from one of the greatest auteurs of the 21st century.
9. Cold War
Another film shot in stunning black and white, “Cold War” is a love story that transpires over the course of many years. It’s like an old scrapbook being flipped through, distressed pictures of faded memories that show the smiles amongst the blurry backgrounds of a world that never stops changing, never stops threatening the happiness of people who love one another. Director Pawel Pawlikowski crafts a romantic story that is filled with passion and pain, optimism and melancholy; however, through the journey over time, over love and loss, “Cold War” will seduce you with performance and technique.
Director Spike Lee has composed an illustrious career of films that handle aspects of race relationships, both present and past, in thought provoking ways. “BlacKkKlansman” is a career highlight for the director; it’s a film that utilizes every skill Mr. Lee has developed over his entire career in different, intriguing ways. It’s quite impressive seeing everything come together; the composition of the narrative is sensitive and abrasive in effective ways, the performances are nuanced, and the style is a mix of both classic Hollywood and 70’s blaxploitation in only a way that Lee could compose. This film displays the filmmaker’s restraint and also his ability to control tone in big and small ways. Spike Lee displays here why his name should be considering amongst the greatest living American directors.
7. Minding the Gap
Next time you come across a group of people skateboarding, stop and watch how many times they fail and fail again before they successfully execute a trick. The determination and perseverance for these athletes is unbelievable. “Minding the Gap” is a documentary about the space that forms between youth and adulthood, the social class divide in middle America, an analysis on manhood, broken homes, trauma and abuse. However, amidst all these different elements, this film is about the freedom one can achieve by having something you can call your own, the freedom that exists through friendship, and the freedom that develops by simple trying to achieve something in the face of failure. This is a stunning debut from director Bing Liu.
6. If Beale Street Could Talk
There is a sense of optimism felt in the final moments of Barry Jenkins’ adaptation of the 1974 classic novel, “If Beale Street Could Talk”, written by James Baldwin. It’s a quiet moment of unrelenting, unwavering love between two young people who grow up in Harlem in the 1970’s and are forced to fight for their love amidst racism that ultimately keeps them apart. Along the path to this moment we are introduced to two families struggling to make a better life for their children, a mother who will travel the ends of the earth for the people she loves, and a young woman who is committed to establishing and building a family. The beauty and tragedy of this film, amidst the remarkable social connection Jenkins is doing with the story, is that the tale is far too familiar, both as an impassioned love story and commentary surrounding the hatred that still exists in 2018.
5. The Favourite
Director Yorgos Lanthimos has helmed some impressively unique features in the past few years, tackling interesting subject matter with a keen visual perspective and a distinctive sensibility to narrative structure. “The Favourite”, a career highlight for the Greek director, is a bitingly dark costume comedy about royal affairs, prestige, politics, hierarchy, and the morally abrasive manners that compose the quest for power. The performances are some of the best of 2018. Olivia Colman is exceptional as Queen Anne; her petulant nature, shrieking voice, desperate looks, and tearful pleading compose a character that is trapped and lonely. Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone compete and bicker with amusing flair. “The Favourite” is pleasantly frustrating and sharply hilarious. It’s the best film of Yorgos Lanthimos intriguing career.
Racism, police brutality, political structures, gentrification are but a few of the subjects tackled with impressive style and undeniable wit by first-time feature film director Carlos Lopez Estrada. Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal offer brilliant performances as two best friends trying to save a friendship and survive in a rapidly changing Bay Area. It’s the most unorthodox film on this list because it refuses to play by the rules; when you think the film should turn left, it turns right, when you think it should retreat from a subject, it charges full speed. “Blindspotting” is pure powerful poetry in so many different ways.
3. First Reformed
Paul Shrader has garnered an impressive list of films under his belt both as a director and writer. “First Reformed” is a difficult film surrounding the aspects of honor, humility and ultimately faith; the film asks challenging questions about religion and politics without the need for an answer from anyone, the director included. The filmmaking is rigid and formal with everything having an order or place, the performance from the exceptional Ethan Hawke feels tortured yet somehow awakened, and the narrative design is foreboding and ominous. Paul Shrader, even after a long and varied career, demonstrates his mastery of filmmaking with “First Reformed”.
Director Lee Chang-dong has composed six films since 1997, each of them more provocative and emotional than the last. “Burning”, based on a short story by Haruki Murakami, takes aim at the increasing disconnection humanity has with one another and how fractured a person can become by this division. The film expertly shifts its tone, at one moment harboring the characteristics of a lovelorn romance and then transitioning into a mystery that becomes increasingly enthralling. Themes of class division, family trauma, and political division give the film its teeming atmosphere while the performances from the three leads beautifully grounds the story throughout its changing forms with characters obsessed, jealous, and madly in love. “Burning” is captivating cinema from start to finish.
Horror films have utilized the family dynamic, mostly broken beyond repair, to build visions of invasive family structure terror. Think of films like “The Omen”, “The Shining”, or even more recently “The Conjuring”. What makes director Ari Aster’s first feature film different from most is the structure concerning the family, specifically the historical structure and the ongoing trauma and despair that has permeated the foundation of this family’s ancestry. “Hereditary” takes the viewer into horrific aspects concerning grief, trauma, and ultimately despair before unleashing the supernatural threat, it’s why the film is so effective. It’s this journey into the emotion that ultimately makes the visions of horror resonate so strongly.
The Best of the Rest
11. Sorry to Bother You
13. You Were Never Really Here
19. Let the Sun Shine In
20. The Sisters Brothers
21. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
24. Black Panther